New Kansas law passes, saves restored 1959 Corvette from the crusher

Kyle Smith

The thought of crushing a freshly restored 1959 Corvette is heartbreaking. Then, add in that the reason for doing so centers on the condition of two very specific rivets. Luckily for Richard Martinez, Kansas lawmakers have finally come through and passed a law that frees his beloved hardtop from the clutches of the impound lot.

The center of this debate has been the VIN plate on Martinez’s Corvette. He bought the car in 2016, a beloved ride that got a full restoration some years ago and as part of the repainting process had the VIN plate removed. Upon presenting it for routine state inspection, the Kansas Highway Patrol seized the Corvette. Unknown to the Martinez, the car ran afoul of a Kansas law which stated any vehicle with a “destroyed, removed, altered, or defaced” VIN plate must be crushed. That’s a harsh reality for a historic car that wasn’t party to any nefarious intent. Early on, authorities declared Martinez innocent of any wrongdoing, but the car was still being targeted for destruction.

With the car sitting in an impound lot, a push developed revise the Kansas law, largely thanks to the non-profit Kansas Justice Institute. The revision that resulted from this advocacy (House Bill 2594) aims to exempt classic vehicles undergoing repair or restoration and would additionally exempt classic car owners who didn’t know or had no reason to believe their car was involved in a crime. This is a big step forward and removes a significant bit of hesitation from owners in Kansas who feared their vehicles might get them in legal hot water when they went to register it.

House Bill 2594 was ultimately approved by governor Lauren Kelly on March 22, ending this half-decade long saga of anxiety for Martinez and his Corvette. At this time it is unclear exactly when the owner and hardtop might be reunited, but there is finally light at the end of the tunnel.

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